BY Steve Rudman 12:10PM 01/06/2015

Big Unit leads four-player parade into HOF

Former Mariner Randy Johnson received 97.3 percent of the vote and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame Tuesday on his first appearance on the ballot.

Randy Johnson throws out the first pitch at Safeco Field to open the 2010 season. Johnson returned to Safeco two years later when the Mariners inducted him into their Hall of Fame. / Wiki Commons

Raking in a near-record 97.3 percent of the vote, Randy Johnson (1989-09) overwhelmingly won election to the Baseball Hall of Fame Tuesday in his first time on the ballot, topping a 2015 class that also includes Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio. Another former Mariner, Edgar Martinez, again came up short, but experienced a slight uptick in support.

Johnson, who pitched for Seattle from 1989-98, attracted the third-highest percentage of votes in history among pitchers, trailing only Tom Seaver’s 98.8 and Nolan Ryan’s 98.7, and the eighth-highest percentage among all players. He was selected on 534 of 549 ballots.

Martinez drew 91.1 percent, Smoltz 82.9 and Biggio 82.7 as four players, three of them pitchers, entered the Hall of Fame in one class for the first time since 1955. They will be formally inducted July 26 in Cooperstown, NY.

Johnson won the 1995 American League Cy Young award while pitching for the Mariners and went on to four more for the Arizona Diamondbacks following his July 31, 1998 trade to the National League.

In 22 seasons, Johnson won 303 games, fanned 4,875 batters (second most in history), made 10 All-Star teams, and, with Curt Schilling, shared the Most Valuable Player award in the 2001 World Series.

“On behalf of the Mariners franchise and ownership, we wish to add our congratulations to Randy Johnson on his well-deserved election to the Baseball Hall of Fame,” said Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln. “Randy began his career in Montreal, but began his ascent to the Hall of Fame here in Seattle.

“During his 10 seasons in Seattle, Randy was a key member of the group of players that cemented the Mariners place in the region. We are equally proud of the work Randy did off the field in Seattle, and note that even after his retirement, he continues to give his time in support of important causes, including his many visits to troops overseas.”

Johnson won 130 games for the Mariners after they acquired him early in 1989 from the Expos in exchange for Mark Langston. In addition to winning the 1995 Cy Young and leading the Mariners to their first postseason appearance that year, he became Seattle’s first 20-game winner in 1997 (20-4).

With Johnson seeking a long-term contract in 1998 and the Mariners reluctant to invest in a 35-year-old power pitcher with a surgically repaired back, Seattle traded the Big Unit to the Houston Astros, the deal serving as a launching pad to the greatest half of Johnson’s career.

Starting in 1999 after he signed as a free agent with Arizona, Johnson won four consecutive Cy Young awards, captured the Triple Crown of pitching (2002), tied a major league record by striking out 20 batters in a game (May 8, 2001) and threw the 17th perfect game in major league history (May 18, 2004).

He had his best season in 2002, when he went 24-5, led the National League in ERA (2.32), strikeouts (334) and innings (260). This is how Johnson’s career looks with Seattle and his MLB totals:

Category Mariners MLB Total Skinny
Seasons 10 22 1989-09 with Mont, Sea, Hou, AZ, NYY, SF
Wins 130 303 Career-high 24 in 2002 with Diamondbacks
ERA 3.42 3.29 Won 4 ERA titles, including 1 in AL, 3 in NL
Innings 1838.1 4135.1 Career-high 271.2 with Diamondbacks in 1999
Cmp.Gms 51 100 Led NL with 12 in ’99; 10 for Mariners twice
Shutouts 19 37 No-hitter June 2, 1990; perfecto May 18, 2004
Strikeouts 2162 4875 Led AL or NL 9 times; K’d 20 Reds May 8, 2001
S0/9 10.6 10.6 All-time MLB leader; career-high 13.4 in 2001
WAR 39.3 104.3 5th in Mariners history, 2nd among pitchers
WHIP 1.25 1.171 Led majors 3 times, best of 0.90 in 2004
Salary $30.8m $175.5m Best contract: 4 years, $52.4 million in 1999

Martinez, after whom the Designated Hitter Award is named, received 27 percent (148 votes), a slight uptick over last year’s 25.5. Martinez drew 36.2 percent in 2010, his first year on the ballot, and 32.9 in 2011. In 2012, Martinez received his best percentage, 36.5, and then fell to 35.9 in 2013.

While Martinez needs much more support from the 549 voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America to reach the required 75 percent necessary for induction, he got a boost from Pedro Martinez Tuesday.

“The one guy I hated to face was Edgar Martinez,” the three-time Cy Young winner said during a post-election interview on MLB.com. “It used to piss me off that I had to throw 13 pitches just to get the guy out.”

The 2016 ballot will include, for the first time, Ken Griffey Jr., who had two tours with the Mariners between 1989-10. Like Johnson, Griffey is expected to be an acclamation choice.

 


YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    Edgar needs to go on the ballot when there’s players like Canseco,McGwire, Bonds and Clemens on it. Hope Randy mentions Edgar in his speech.

    • RadioGuy

      Randy apparently did mention Edgar, but Edgar’s already been on the ballot six times and has fallen far shot every time. He may reach Cooperstown someday, but a lot of guys should (and will) will get in before him. Like Griffey.

      • jafabian

        He mentioned him in his press conference but I’m hoping he’ll bring him up y in his HOF speech, which after yesterday I’m assuming he will. Listening to Steve Phillips today he thinks Edgar will get in but as a Veteran’s Committee vote. If Piazza and Biggio, who play full time, (and Biggio has over 3000 hits) can’t get in, but pitchers who play in at best 35 games a year do on the first vote then Edgar’s chances are slim and a Veteran’s Committee vote makes more sense.

        If a closer can get in then DH should be able to. And too many players say that Edgar is the best hitter they’ve ever seen.

        • RadioGuy

          Yeah, the Veterans Committee scenario seems more likely, especially now that the window is only ten years after a player reaches eligibility to get in through the BBWAA.

          I should make it clear that I am not anti-Edgar: I greatly respected him as a hitter and as a man. I simply think there are too many others more qualified to enter the HOF before he does. Sort of like Spencer Haywood and Springfield.

          • jafabian

            They need to re-examine the election process. People who vote sometimes have agendas that aren’t in the best interest of the Hall. I read some people won’t vote for a player to send a message or that player is getting to many cores anyways. That shouldn’t even enter the equation.

  • Tman

    “Mr Johnson, What do you think of Michael Jordan becoming a Major League Baseball Player?” “Let him try to hit my fastball”.

    An incredible moment when Randy Johnson started his first game after back surgery. He struck out the first five batters he faced.

    • Da Kid

      Yeah. The guy with the “bad back.” Where’s Chuck “Glad Hand” Armstrong now? You know…the complete imbecile who torpedoed Junior’s 1997 MVP Award press conference by announcing that ” We’re not going to re-sign Randy Johnson. He has a bad back.”

      I’d pay $1000 today to punch Armstrong’s headlights out.